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Quotations about Philosophy
and Philosophers



It requires the augur-mind of the philosopher to bore its way into the knotty, hard fibre of reality. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897


Socrates termed philosophy the preparation for death; but should it not rather be styled the patient endurance of life? ~The Countess of Blessington, Desultory Thoughts and Reflections, 1839


Friends and Philosophers! For we be all philosophers together, viewing this varied world and pondering its antic ways. ~Arthur Guiterman, A Poet's Proverbs, 1924


Philosophy is common sense in a dress suit. ~Oliver F. Braston


"We two have much to think about," said the louse on the head of the philosopher. ~German proverb, as quoted by Robert Christy, 1890


You philosophers are sages in your maxims, and fools in your conduct. ~Madame Gout to Mr. Benjamin Franklin, "Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout," 1780


...the point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it. ~Bertrand Russell


Leisure is the mother of Philosophy; and Common-wealth, the mother of Peace, and Leisure: Where first were great and flourishing Cities, there was first the study of Philosophy. ~Thomas Hobbes


Man is a parrot, and he does not even get outside himself and look at himself as a parrot. If he did, he would thereby become a philosopher... ~Robert Lynd, "The Old Game," Solomon in All His Glory, 1923


It seems as though poetry and philosophy were twin stars of different but harmonious colours, each shining in the other's light, and shedding a twofold radiance upon their attendant planets. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, 1850


We catch fugitive glimpses of beauty, and try to fix them forever in perfect form, — that is the task of art. We see thousands of disconnected facts, and try to arrange them in orderly sequence, — that is the task of science. We see the ongoing of eternal force, and seek some reason for it, — that is the task of philosophy. ~Samuel McChord Crothers, "The Mission of Humor," The Gentle Reader, 1903


Philosophy is just a hobby. You can't open a philosophy factory. ~Dewey Selmon


The natural philosophers are mostly gone. We modern scientists are adding too many decimals. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)


My definition of a philosopher is a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends holding the ropes which confine him to earth and trying to haul him down. ~Louisa May Alcott  [a little altered —tg]


Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic thought has done its best, the wonder remains. There have been added, however, some grasp of the immensity of things, some purification of emotion by understanding. ~Alfred North Whitehead


If everybody contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains many of us will die of cholera. ~John Rich, "The Emotional Revolution," 1968


All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusion is called a philosopher. ~Ambrose Bierce


Philosophy makes good reading for the man who has his rent paid. ~Noah Lott (George V. Hobart), The Silly Syclopedia, 1905


The verdure sleeps in winter,
      Awakes with April rain,
      The sun swings low—'tis night,—ascends,
      And lo! 'tis morn again:
The world spins on triumphant
      Across a trackless sky,
      And man seeks evermore in vain
      The primal reason—why?
~Georgia Douglas Camp Johnson (1880–1966), "Why," 1916  [First lines are 1922 version, last line is 1916 version. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


The world is cursed with roaring and prancing politicians, and blessed all the while with whisperings of the philosophers. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882


Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to ourselves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain, we cannot see. ~George Berkeley (1685–1753)


Let the sublimated philosopher grasp visionary happiness while pursuing phantoms dressed in the garb of truth! Their supreme wisdom is supreme folly: and they mistake for happiness the mere absence of pain. Had they ever felt the solid pleasure of one generous spasm of the heart, they would exchange for it all the frigid speculations of their lives... ~Thomas Jefferson, 1786


Open ears and sharp eyes are the philosopher's best tutors. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882


To live alone, one must be a beast or a god — says Aristotle — leaving out the third case: that one must be both — a philosopher. ~Friedrich Nietzsche


But to accomplish this end we must venture into the unfathomable depths of metaphysics — a dark ocean without shores or lighthouses, where one must proceed like the mariner in a not-yet-navigated sea, and when he makes land, examine whether unseen currents disturbed his course. ~Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), translated from German


Mandy Baxter: I'm loving college.... "Cogito, ergo sum."
Mike Baxter: Twenty-five grand so she can figure out whether she exists or not.
~Kevin Hench, Last Man Standing, "Back to School" [S1, E3, 2013]


Nobody can have the consolations of religion or philosophy unless he has first experienced their desolations. And nothing is more desolating than a thorough knowledge of the private self. ~Aldous Huxley


Philosophy, like Medicine, has many drugs, a very few good remedies, and practically no specific cures. ~Sébastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort (c.1740–1794)


Philosophers, for the most part, are constitutionally timid, and dislike the unexpected. Few of them would be genuinely happy as pirates or burglars. Accordingly they invent systems which make the future calculable, at least in its main outlines. ~Bertrand Russell


What is the first business of one who studies philosophy? To part with self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows. ~Epictetus (55–c.135), transmitted by Arrian (c.86–c.160), Discourses, Book II, Chapter XVII  ["How To Apply General Principles to Particular Cases," combination of translations but mostly Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 1865 —tg]


Truth and Beauty (perhaps Keats was wrong in identifying them: perhaps they have the relation of Wit and Humour, or Rain and Rainbow) are of interest only to hungry people. There are several kinds of hunger. If Socrates, Spinoza, and Santayana had had free access to a midnight icebox we would never have heard of them. Shall I be ashamed of my little mewing truths?... I ask to be forgiven: they are such tiny ones. ~Christopher Morley, Inward Ho!, 1923


Philosophy is a mental concept of the universe. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)


We come late, if at all, to wine and philosophy: whiskey and action are easier. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963


...Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
~John Keats


Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine—
Unweave a rainbow...
~John Keats


I also realised that the philosophers, far from ridding me of my vain doubts, only multiplied the doubts that tormented me and failed to remove any one of them. So I chose another guide and said, "Let me follow the Inner Light; it will not lead me so far astray as others have done, or if it does it will be my own fault, and I shall not go so far wrong if I follow my own illusions as if I trusted to their deceits." ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1762, translated by Barbara Foxley, 1911


ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.
ACADEMY, n. (from academe). A modern school where football is taught.
~Ambrose Bierce


The only difference between graffiti and philosophy is the word "[f*@%]." ~Author unknown


Philosophy cannot raise the commonalty up to her level: so, if she is to become popular, she must sink to theirs.  ~Augustus William Hare and Julius Charles Hare, Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers, 1827


Philosophy easily triumphs over past and future ills; but present ills triumph over philosophy. ~François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680)


PHILOSOPHY, n.  A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. ~Ambrose Bierce





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